Education in Brazil

Brazil has made substantial economic progress over the past fifteen years, but Alexei Barrionuevo reports that its levels of educational attainment continue to lag:

Brazilian 15-year-olds tied for 49th out of 56 countries on the reading exam of the Program for International Student Assessment, with more than half scoring in the test’s bottom reading level in 2006, the most recent year available. In math and science, they fared even worse.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves,” said Ilona Becskeházy, executive director of the Lemann Foundation, an organization based in São Paulo devoted to improving Brazilian education. “This means that 15-year-olds in Brazil are mastering more or less the same skills as 9-year-olds or 10-year-olds in countries such as Denmark or Finland.”

Of course the Finns have the best-performing students in the world, so the no shame in a poor country lagging behind them. But Brazil does considerable worse than Chile or Mexico. Here’s the math stats:


These kind of things don’t turn around overnight. What you hope for is a mutually reinforcing pattern where growth makes more resources available and then if those resources are invested well educational attainment improves and lays the groundwork for more growth.